Sunday, October 31, 2010

Interview with Mariann Aalda (ex-Didi, EON)

Hi Mariann!! Let me just say that it is an honor that you agreed to be here!
Mariann:  Lisa, the pleasure is all mine…thanks for asking.

You are well known for Didi Bannister on The Edge of Night...What other soap roles were you in?
Mariann:  Let’s see…I played Dr. Grace Battles, Johnny Bauer’s oncologist on GUIDING LIGHT;  The “tragically disfigured” Lena Heart on NBC’s SUNSET BEACH (which SOAP OPERA weekly proclaimed “The Best BAD Storyline” of that year! LOL), and Ellen Parker, “the long-suffering wife” of adulterous football coach TD Parker (played by O.J. Simpson!) on the night-time HBO soap, FIRST & 10.

   "Calvin & DiDi"                                                EDGE OF NIGHT "Back in the day"

Congrats on your new blog dedicated to Didi..Tell us about it...
Mariann:  Well, Alina Wickham, who writes SOAP OPERA 451 asked if I would like to contribute to keeping the Procter & Gamble soaps “alive” online with a blog for EDGE OF NIGHT.  The cancellations of AS THE WORLD TURNS and GUIDING LIGHT during the last 18 months saddened a lot of  soap fans and created feelings of nostalgia for what a lot of them consider the “Golden Era” of soaps of the ‘70’s; ’80’s and 90’s. 

Ultimately, I decided to do the project because of all the things I’ve done in this business, it never ceases to amaze me how often I am still recognized as “DiDi Bannister.”

So this is my way of giving-back to EON fans for their die-hard loyalty to the show.  In fact, for the last ten years or so, one fan, Julius Burnett, has flown out to LA from his home in Alabama every year to host an  EDGE OF NIGHT reunion! I tell you, I’ve found daytime fans to be some of the loveliest people…yourself, included, Lisa. :-) 

Here I am at an EON reunion with Terri Davis (April Webster), David Allen Brooks (Jim Dedrickson)  & Karrie Emerson (Jody Travis) 
Unfortunately Julius isn't in the picture because he's the one taking it!

Any new projects coming up?
Mariann:  Several years ago, Iona Morris (ex-Fiona Griffin, ATWT) and I started writing and producing together and formed Al & Mo (for Aalda & Morris) Productions. Our theatrical production of  “M.O.I.S.T.!” -- a sex-istential comedy-with-music celebrating the vibrancy, vitality and viability of the “seasoned” woman recently closed in LA after a successful 9-month run.  
With Iona Morris in scenes from M.O.I.S.T.!)

The show was on track to open Off-Broadway in early 2008, but the economic tsunami that upended Wall Street also washed away our investors.  So,  Iona and I decided to produce it ourselves in Los Angeles (with the help of a lot of sweat-equity and deferred-payments from friends) where we already had a loyal live-performance following from previous stage work.  

We’re now looking to bring the show to New York with corporate sponsors interested in appealing to the “boomer-chick” demographic, and are presently in talks with producers who want to bring “M.O.I.S.T.!” to the UK.

(Yes, that is Iona and me with STEVIE WONDER, who loved the show!)

As a bit of trivia, I actually got my show-biz start doing sketch and improvisational comedy with Off-Centre Theatre (which helped launch John Leguizamo) and The Proposition (where Jane Curtain got her pre-Saturday Night Live start.) After moving to LA when EDGE was cancelled, I mostly did sitcoms, including recurring on DESIGNING WOMEN and starring in THE ROYAL FAMILY with Redd Foxx and Della Reese. On a whim and a dare, I started doing stand-up a couple years ago, appearing in club s like Caroline's and Comix in NY and The Improv and HaHa's in LA.

Would you ever do another soap?
Mariann:  In a heartbeat. In fact, here’s another bit of trivia for you: my first daytime day-player role was a 2-appearance stint on ONE LIFE TO LIVE opposite Al Freeman, Jr. (Detective Ed Hall).  I was his first date post-divorce from his wife Carla (played by Ellen Holly).  We went to dinner with another couple…and the woman was played by Linda Dano!  

The thing I especially love about OLTL is that they continue to develop great front-burner storylines for their  “mature” female actresses like Erika Slezak, Robin Strasser, Ilene Kristen, Patricia Elliott and Hillary B. Smith; and now I look forward to seeing what Executive Producer, Frank Valentini, and Head Writer, Ron Carlivati, have in store for the wonderful Kim Zimmer.

My dream is to return to ONE LIFE TO LIVE and take up permanent residence in Llanview…while doing my show “M.O.I.S.T.!” Off-Broadway at night. 
                         "Serious" Mariann...                                                         "Not-so-serious" Mariann :-)

Do you watch any now?
Mariann:  I’ve been partial to the ABC soaps since I started watching them when I was a teen-ager.  I’ve talked about this before in an article for Soap Opera Digest.  The characters of Ed and Carla Hall on OLTL and Frank and Nancy Grant (played by John Danelle and Lisa Wilkerson) on AMC were groundbreaking in the complexity of story-lines given to black actors on daytime. Kudos to writer Agnes Nixon for her groundbreaking efforts.

I so related to these characters who looked and sounded like me and the people in my family, that even more than theater and film, I set my sights on doing a soap opera because of the opportunity they provided for comprehensive character development and story-telling, with the evolvement taking place in real time and over many years.  I feel the richness of the story-telling of Ed & Carla and Frank & Nancy helped pave the way for the romantic couplings of Angie & Jessie and Calvin & DiDi a decade or so later.   

That’s why I’m so excited about the return of Angie & Jessie. They’ve been gone from Pine Valley for twenty years, but AMC did a great job in giving them a back-story explaining their absence and providing a plausible return -- which is one of the reasons why, even after a twenty year absence, those characters are as popular as ever.  And Debbie and Darnell are doing great work, so I try to catch that show as often as I can.  I’m also a Susan Lucci fan and am thrilled by the fact that at 62, Erica Kane is still considered sexy and vibrant enough to be at the center of a love triangle!

That’s the message of “M.O.I.S.T.!” -- that women are like fine wine, and that along with becoming more full-bodied with age, we also become more intoxicating!

Thank you again for being here and Good Luck in everything that you do!!
Graciously accepted, and back-atcha, Lisa!

“Eye On Monticello” Blog: 
“M.O.I.S.T.!” Website:
Mariann Aalda Website:
Mariann’s MySpace Comedy:


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